July 15 �deadline� for now
Sourav to leave tonight
Indian Airlines to meet CRPF
�Price� of jersey-swap
Anand to skip Olympiad
Bagan back to top of NFL
Subrata all praise for team
Habib to take charge soon
Naren Kumar takes rally title
Race Review/ Age could not wither Estocade

Calcutta, April 1: 
The potentially very explosive Zimbabwe-issue will have to be settled by July 15, if the south African country is to remain a co-host in next year�s cricket World Cup.

With 14 teams, edition No.8 will be the biggest-ever � action gets underway on February 9, with the final slated for March 23. While South Africa is the principal host, Zimbabwe and Kenya have been allotted six and two matches, respectively.

�July 15 is when the tickets go on sale worldwide and, frankly, this uncertainty must be cleared by then,� the World Cup�s executive director, Dr Ali Bacher, told The Telegraph this afternoon.

Zimbabwe, which is in Pool A, is scheduled to host all its league games �including the ones against reigning champions Australia and England � at home. The other matches will feature India, Pakistan, Holland and Namibia.

Namibia (February 10), England (February 13) and India (February 19) are to play in Harare, with Australia (February 24), Holland (February 28) and Pakistan (March 4) slated to take the field in Bulawayo.

At the moment, however, there�s a question mark over whether Canberra and London will allow the Australian and England teams to play in Zimbabwe.

Just a few days ago, after all, Canberra made the ACB cancel a trip to that country. Misgivings over security, specially after the controversial elections, largely influenced the decision.

Given the build-up, it didn�t come as a shock.

Indeed, had a trip by England been round the corner, London would surely have followed suit.

For the record, Zimbabwe has already been suspended from the Commonwealth � the March 19 decision will be reviewed after a year, by when the World Cup will be in its closing stages.

Speaking from Johannesburg, Dr Bacher insisted �every effort will be made� to ensure there�s no change in the schedule announced last October. But, he sensibly added: �At the same time, we�ve got to be realistic and can�t allow events to overtake us��

With the holidays (Easter weekend) over, Dr Bacher informed he will now be seeking an appointment with Aziz Pahad, South Africa�s deputy foreign minister, to �gauge� Pretoria�s thoughts.

The Zimbabwe-issue is more than sensitive and, so, it�s no surprise that Dr Bacher is treading with caution. Not that he has much of a choice.

As the executive director himself put it: �I�ve first got to know what our government thinks of the situation. Step No.2 will be talking to the ICC and, then, with those who hold the sponsorship and TV rights (Global Cricket Corporation)��

As announced, should the games be taken away from Zimbabwe, the re-scheduling will all be South Africa-specific.

Meanwhile, four sponsors have thus far been identified: LG and Pepsi (labelled global partners); Hero Honda and South African Airways (termed official sponsors).


Calcutta, April 1: 
Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly will leave for the West Indies tomorrow night via Mumbai. He will be reaching Guyana on April 4, on the eve of the tour opener against Guyana XI.

Meanwhile, the Test matches and one-day Internationals between India and the West Indies will be telecast live by STAR Sports, according to a release.


1st Test in Guyana (April 11-15): 1st session from 19:35 hrs. 2nd session onwards from 22:15 hrs. 2nd Test in Trinidad (April 19-23): 1st session from 19:35 hrs. 2nd session onwards from 22:15 hrs. 3rd Test in Barbados (May 2-6): 1st session from 19:35 hrs. 2nd session from 22:15 hrs. 4th Test in Antigua (May 10-14): 1st session from 19:35 hrs. 2nd session from 22:15 hrs. 5th Test in Jamaica (May 18-22): 1st session from 20:35 hrs. 2nd session from 23:15 hrs.


1st ODI in Jamaica (May 25): 1st session from 20:05 hrs. 2nd session from 00:20 hrs. 2nd ODI in Jamaica (May 26): 1st session from 20:05 hrs. 2nd session from 00:20 hrs. 3rd ODI in Barbados (May 29): 1st session from 19:05 hrs. 2nd session from 23:20 hrs. 4th ODI in Trinidad (June 1): 1st session from 19:05 hrs. 2nd session from 23:20 hrs. 5th ODI in Trinidad (June 2): 1st session from 19:05 hrs. 2nd session from 23:20 hrs.


Calcutta, April 1: 
Indian Airlines 1
Punjab Police 1
Army XI 2
Punjab & Sind Bank 2
IHF Juniors 0

The boys got separated from the men in the Indian Oil-Servo Beighton Cup hockey championship. And at the end of a long and steamy afternoon, Indian Airlines, Punjab Police, Punjab & Sind Bank (PSB) and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) booked their places in the last four.

In the semi-finals, Indian Airlines come up against CRPF, while Punjab and Sind Bank meet Punjab Police.

Indian Airlines played out a leisurely 1-1 draw with Punjab Police, giving the two �heavyweights� a passage to the semi-finals. Both finished the quarter final league engagements with five points, but Airlines topped the group on better goal difference.

The other group saw Border Security Force (BSF) lose out in a three-way tie to PSB and CRPF.

[Owing to a miscalculation on our part, it had been reported in these columns today that BSF have qualified for the semis. Though they were favoured to reach the last four after winning their first two matches, they got knocked out on goal difference.]

PSB edged out BSF 2-1 today, while CRPF beat IHF Juniors 2-0. That meant PSB, CRPF and BSF all finished with two victories (six points). PSB emerged group champions with a goal difference of plus 3 (7 scored, 4 conceded); CRPF came second with plus 2 (3-1); BSF were third with plus 1 (5-4).

It was BSF who called the shots in the first quarter of their clash with PSB. Besides forcing two penalty corners, they came very close when a Narinder Singh hit was cleared from the goalline.

Having survived that early blitz, PSB gradually came into their own and scored twice in the space of two minutes.

Captain Baljit Singh Chandi, who donned India colours in the Sultan Azlan Shah meet, was a livewire for the bankmen on the right side. He set up both goals � in the 19th and 21st minute.

Junior World Cupper Ajitpal Singh struck first with a dainty reverse-flick, after BSF custodian Jagjit Singh had padded away two PSB efforts. The official scoresheet, though, registered the goal in Kulwinder Singh�s name as Ajitpal was wearing his shirt (jersey No. 11).

Sanjeev Dang made it 2-0, promptly redirecting Chandi�s measured square pass past the helpless Jagjit. BSF, who failed to make much headway in the PSB 25-yard area, made it 2-1 in the 31st minute when S.R. Rizwan shot home following a melee in the �D�.

A dress rehearsal

In what was considered a dress rehearsal for a possible final showdown, Punjab Police went ahead in the 14th minute. Jasbir Singh pounced on a partial clearance from former India �keeper Ashish Ballal and slammed the ball home.

A minute before half-time, current World Cupper Dilip Tirkey restored parity off a penalty corner. Both teams, sure of advancing with a drawn result, played safe in the second half which saw very little enterprise but for flashes of veteran Mukesh Kumar�s vintage skills.

CRPF, needing to win by a two-goal margin to pip BSF, did just that thanks to Karan Raj (third minute) and Topher Kujur�s (61st) strikes.

Army XI, despite having Avtar Singh red-carded midway through the second half, pipped CISF 2-1. Chandrasekhar Khalco and Kamal Horo scored for the winners, but that wasn�t enough to take them through.

Harsh Sharma got CISF�s consolation goal.


Calcutta, April 1: 
Punjab & Sind Bank�s Ajitpal Singh paid the �penalty� for wearing Kulwinder Singh�s jersey in the Indian Oil-Servo Beighton Cup match against BSF this afternoon. The junior World Cupper scored a fine goal in his team�s 2-1 victory, but the credit went to his teammate.

Funny as it may sound, that�s the truth. The official team list had Kulwinder as the player with jersey No. 11, while the name of Ajitpal � who dons shirt No. 4 � was not there at all.

How did it all happen? Listen to PSB manager S.S. Dadiala.

�Ajitpal left his jersey in the hotel room by mistake when we came to the ground this afternoon. Since Kulwinder had an injury and wasn�t playing, Ajitpal took the field wearing Kulwinder�s shirt (No. 11),� he explained.

Problem was, none in the team remembered to inform the organisers about this jersey-swap. Still, it would have gone unnoticed had PSB not sent in Kulwinder as a rotating substitute in the closing minutes. The umpires also spotted it late � after Kulwinder had already gone into the field � and he was made to wear a makeshift No. 4 flap on his back.

�One of our players wanted a toilet break with just two minutes remaining, so Kulwinder was sent in to relieve him,� informed Dadiala.

The manager did own up for the royal confusion. �The umpires or the organisers are not to blame for this confusion, it�s totally our fault. All this would not have happened had Ajitpal not left his jersey back in the hotel room,� he said.


Calcutta, April 1: 
The All India Chess Federation (AICF) may have included Viswanathan Anand in the Indian team for the Chess Olympiad but the former world champion will not take part in the event to be held in Slovenia in October.

According to information received by The Telegraph from sources close to the player, Anand will skip the meet since he doesn�t like the format. His last appearance in the Olympiad was in 1992, in Manila, and he has maintained that he doesn�t find the format acceptable.

�Anand will not participate in the forthcoming Olympiad. As he always maintained, the reason for his non-participation is that the format is not agreeable,� said a source in response to a query to this effect.

The AICF had announced the Indian men�s team here on Wednesday and Anand�s name figured among those mentioned. The AICF secretary, however, said that Anand was yet to confirm.

In Anand�s absence, R.B. Ramesh is likely to make the team, which also includes GMs K. Sasikiran, Dibyendu Barua, P. Harikrishna, Abhijit Kunte and double GM norm-holder Surya Sekhar Ganguly.

The Indian men had finished eighth in the previous edition of the meet held in Istanbul, where the women�s team came 13th. That was India�s best Olympiad performance ever.

Anand is currently busy with the first leg of the Chess Grand Prix which begins in Dubai Wednesday. All top players, barring Garri Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik, are present in the 32-player field.


Calcutta, April 1: 
Mohun Bagan started the last lap in the race to the National Football League title with a hard-earned 1-0 win over Mahindra United today. The victory put them two points clear of nearest rivals Churchill Brothers though the Goan challengers have played a match less.

After 19 matches Mohun Bagan have 38 points and Churchill have 36 from 18.

About 40,000 crowded the Salt Lake Stadium to cheer the home team, but the two-time champions struggled in what was a must-win match before making it, in the 69th minute when Jose Ramirez Barreto converted a penalty.

Mahindra had succeeded in soaking up the goalmouth pressure, denying Mohun Bagan a proper look at the goal. The Mumbai champions even created two good chances in the first half.

Mohun Bagan created a few more openings after the goal � but they came at a time when Mahindra had thrown most of their men up front � and R.C. Prakash was the one to make a mess of all these chances.

Mohun Bagan were lucky to complete the match with 11 players as Abdulateef Seriki�s off-the-ball punch on Tapan Ghosh�s face in the 15th minute went unnoticed and thus unpunished. It was almost begging for a red card but none of the match officials seemed to have seen the incident.

The goal came at a time when Mahindra were looking dangerous on the counter and Mohun Bagan were finding it difficult to go further after reaching the danger zone in the rival half. Prakash released Barreto with a through from near the centre circle and the Brazilian raced past the off-side trap to wrest possession inside the box.

Barreto had put that final tap on the ball which would have taken him past a desperately advancing Naseem Akhtar but the goalkeeper halted the striker�s progress by jumping at his feet without being able to make contact with the ball. Barreto scored his 12th goal of the championship with a placement to the left of the �keeper, which hit the inner half of the upright before going in.

It was a patchy performance by Mohun Bagan who seemed to have lost the aggressive intent after a positive start. Too many passes were played in the midfield but almost none of them seriously threatened the Mahindra defence.

The visitors deserved credit too, for being disciplined in defensive organisation and most importantly, kept Barreto in check. The Brazilian was allowed little room to turn by Tapan Ghosh and others converged on him whenever he threatened to break free. Mohun Bagan discard M. Suresh also played well.

Mahindra got a great chance in the first minute when S. Venkatesh�s cross from the right reached Austin Okolo at a favourable height and inside the six-yard box but all the Nigerian managed was a feeble header which wasn�t even on the mark.

Venkatesh, enterprising in the beginning, missed one in the 21st minute when he tried a diagonal right-footer from the right towards the far post.


MOHUN BAGAN: Rajat Ghosh Dastidar; Dulal Biswas, Hussain Mustafi, Debjit Ghosh, Rishi Kapoor; Amauri da Silva, R.P. Singh (Ajay Singh, 84), Basudeb Mondal (Uday Konar, 90), Rennedy Singh (R.C. Prakash, 61); Abdulateef Seriki, Jose Ramirez Barreto.

MAHINDRA UNITED: Naseem Akhtar; Anthony Pereira, Tapan Ghosh, M. Suresh; Bernard Operanzie, Habib Adenkule, Isa Musa, S. Venkatesh, Khalid Siddique (Naushad Pari, 74), Jules Alberto; Austin Okolo (Avishek Yadav, 75).

Referee: Rizwan-ul Haq (Delhi).


Calcutta, April 1: 
Coach Subrata Bhattacharya praised his team despite today�s below-par show, which took Mohun Bagan past Mahindra United nonetheless. �They were under pressure and succeeded in snatching full points. That�s what matters at this stage.�

The coach feels his team is going to be under pressure in every match from now on. �There is no time to relax. Every match is extremely crucial. Those who perform under pressure will come out trumps,� Subrata said.

About today�s far from convincing performance, Subrata said the pressure to win, at any cost, prevented his players from putting up a better show. �To their credit, they fought till the end and won three points. They deserve praise for throwing the League wide open.�

Jose Ramirez Barreto, who has to play a lot better than what he did today to win the League for Mohun Bagan, said he was happy to win. �It was a tough match. Their defenders were very tough and made it difficult for us.�

Mahindra coach Harish Rao felt the penalty was a little too harsh though he didn�t criticise the referee. �He could have done without it as such infringements generally are.� He felt the story could have been different had his team been able to convert two first-half chances.


Calcutta, April 1: 
Mohammedan Sporting will start training for the Super Division League under new coach Mohammed Habib from the middle of this month.

Informing this, the club secretary said a new-look team, including five TFA graduates, will fight to regain the club�s lost glory and that he was hopeful of roping in players from some �big� city clubs.

Among their �catches� this season, the official said they have retained goalkeeper Imran Khan who had an outstanding performance last season.

He informed the club had severed their sponsorship tie with the UB Group. According to him, the management was no more interested in tie-ups with any company dealing in liquor or tobacco.


Calcutta, April 1: 
Rallyists are rolling again, around the country. Following some TSD rallies in the eastern part of the country, organised by FMSCI, the MAI got into act and put together a stage rally which ended in Coimbatore yesterday.

Local lads V. R. Naren Kumar and D. Ram Kumar (Honda City), the reigning Asian Zone rally champions from Team MRF, starting the second leg with a 12-second lead over teammates Sagar Muthappa and Sandeep S. Rao from Bangalore, and fought off some spirited challenge to clinch the 1400-1600cc category in the Mill and Monsoon Rally, according to information reaching here. They clocked 2::13:13.


(1400-1600cc & overall)

1. Team MRF V.R.Naren Kumar & D.Ramkumar 2::13:13; 2.Team MRF Sagar Muthappa & Sandeep S. Rao 2::14:17; 3. Team MRF Karandip Singh & Jaidas Menon 2::15:13; 4.Team MRF N. Leelakrishnan & Farooq Ahmed 2::16:15.

(Upto 1400 cc)

1. Team MRF Vikram Mathias & B.S.Sujith Kumar 2::16:37; 2. Team JK/ Maruti/ Chettinad P. G. Abhilash & Sangeet Kumar 2:21:43; 3. Team Chettinad Sporting Jiby Maliakkal & Rohan Rego 2::26:17; 4. Along Aier & Vikishe Shome 2::30:09.


Calcutta, April 1: 
Fitness is the key in thoroughbred racing and only a few horses manage to keep winning condition throughout their careers. Only 35 per cent of all new-born horses survive to make it to the racetrack. And only about seven per cent from this lot make it to the highest class. But here again it is difficult for most of them to carry on their bright form beyond the age of five. In fact, the upkeep of a horse, which continues racing without bringing in the commensurate earning, becomes a burden on the owner. The choice, then, invariably boils down to retirement unless the owner is patient enough to contemplate the reduction in handicap.

Again, in thoroughbred racing, the time-tested ratio � basically with regard to the physique � of a human being and a horse has been worked out to be 1:7.

Therefore, a four-year-old horse is rated as good as a 28-year-old man, bubbling with confidence and energy.

Thus, there have not been too many horses who have continued with their form to the age of eight or nine at the highest level of the sport.

However, March 27 saw Estocade standing the test of time in the day�s feature event, the RWITC Cup for horses in the highest class. That the John Stephens-trainee had been knocking at the door was in itself a significant achievement for a nine-year-old gelding. Backed down as a 2-1 favourite, the courageous Excalibur�s Lake-Air Distingue son went on to pay compliment to his schooler when he returned a handsome winner beating an in-form five-year-old horse, Comedy of Errors.

The seven-event-card, otherwise, had its usual share of upsets after Prakash, doing duty for the Daniel David-stable, had guided the three-year-old River Melody to a runaway victory. The visiting jockey was, however at a receiving end in the following two events as his favourites found proper match in their respective events.

Prakash�s Bay Dragon was edged out by Blessed Spirit ridden by a fellow-Bangalore jockey Imran Chisty. Incidentally, it was Blessed Spirit�s third straight victory in Class V as the handicapper had been kind with the eight-year-old. Prakash was hardly at his enterprising best in the subsequent event and he just about managed to place third on his ride Bird�s Empire.

From the third race onwards, the champion jockey quit the scene on medical ground leaving the stable�s lesser-fancied horses to dominate. Incidentally, Prakash was also favourite to win in the rest of the card but none of his rides managed to hit the board.


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